Vice President Mike Pence will travel to the Kansas City area next week to raise money for U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, a sign that the Johnson County Republican’s re-election is a high priority for the national party.
Yoder, of Overland Park, faces a tough re-election fight in Kansas' 3rd District, which Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016. Keeping the seat could help determine whether Republicans can maintain control of the House next year.
Yoder will not actually attend the July 11 fundraiser but will instead remain in Washington for work related to the House Appropriations Committee, according to his campaign.
"Kevin greatly appreciates the Vice President's efforts to generate excitement and support for his campaign," Yoder spokesman C.J. Grover said in a statement.
A copy of the invitation, which was obtained by the Star, states that attendees will pay $1,000 for the luncheon with the vice president. Couples can pay $5,400 for the opportunity to take a photograph with Pence.
The invitation does not include any details about the location of the event, which will coincide with an event meant to promote President Donald Trump's tax cuts.
Pence's office did not immediately comment on the details of the visit but confirmed that an official event on taxes will be part of the trip.
Yoder has far outpaced his Democratic challengers in the race, but Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, said the results of special election races across the country indicate that Republicans risk losing the seat Yoder has held since 2011.
"He doesn’t need a multimillion-dollar fundraiser, but if Pence gets him a couple hundred thousand dollars, it’s probably worth the trip," Miller said.
"It’s a race where you want to be raising as much money as possible and be active in defending it if you’re a Republican," he said. "It is the most competitive district in Kansas just on paper."
Brent Welder, one of the Democrats vying to take on Yoder, said in a statement that he is "not surprised that Donald Trump has sent Mike Pence to repay Congressman Kevin Yoder for voting in lock-step with Trump’s corrupt Wall Street agenda that bullies Kansas women, seniors, and workers. Yoder has consistently shown that he is too cowardly to stand up to Trump, so I will.”
Tom Niermann, another Democrat in the race, said in a statement that the district needs a representative who will stand up to Trump on health care and other issues.
"Yoder won't do any of that because, as we're seeing, he's counting on Trump to help fund his re-election campaign," Niermann said.
Yoder has voted with Trump 91.7 percent of the time, according to a vote tracker by FiveThirtyEight, but he also has taken steps to distance himself from the president, who is less popular in Yoder's district than the rest of Kansas.
He has criticized Trump on several occasions and was the first member of the Kansas delegation to call on the administration to end its policy of separating families accused of entering the country illegally.
Miller said that a fundraising trip by Trump on Yoder's behalf would have been controversial, but he said a visit Pence will not carry the same amount of controversy.